Bella Swan: The New Sleeping Beauty

We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty. She’s a beautiful princess who lives in a bubble, protected by her parents from every danger and apparently content to be so. Eventually a witch invades her bubble, but only to put the princess to sleep. And sleep the princess does until awakened by a kiss from the heroic Knight in Shining Armor who has fought his way to her side. The story ends with her marrying the prince. We assume that her life will go on as it was before: in the castle, protected by her husband for the rest of her life. She’ll have children, but they will be cared for by others; everything will be done for her. She will continue to live in a bubble.

Vampires have morphed from creatures of horror that prey on others into sexy, suave, well-dressed, and yet dangerous immortals—something like James Bond crossed with the sun god Apollo. It’s no wonder that Bella Swan of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books falls for the vampire Edward Cullen: he is a being of pure fantasy, the Knight in Shining Armor carried to the extreme.

We see the same trope with Angel of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Bill and Eric of “True Blood,” and no doubt in the newer vampire-oriented television shows (which I must confess I have not bothered to watch, because enough already!). But in these shows, there’s a human heroine who is spunky and a fighter. Sookie and Buffy may love particular vampires, but they don’t let that stop them from speaking back to those men, rejecting their over-protectiveness, or going their own ways when they want.

Not so with Bella Swan. This is a girl with no apparent interests or talents of her own that might give her life passion and direction. Instead, she lives only for being with Edward. She is paralyzed with depression when he leaves her for her own good. Edward does not wish to jeopardize either her immortal soul or her right to live a normal human life and have the normal human successes–like children–but Bella doesn’t care about either of those things. She refuses to wake up from her fantasy and move on; she would rather die. In the face of this passive refusal to live, Edward gives in and kills her to make her a vampire too.

Bella, like Sleeping Beauty, is now in a state of suspended animation. She will remain 18 years old forever. She will never grow up; she will never grow old; she will never grow, period. She lives only when Edward kisses her. Meyer cheats and gives her a child, but the child grows up so fast that Bella has to be a mother only for a few months (and most of the child care is apparently done by others anyway). When Bella and Edward’s blissful non-life is threatened by the dangerous Volturi, Meyer gives Bella the ability to “shield” herself and others from their magic. Nothing can penetrate the bubble that surrounds Bella and Edward.

It is fitting that the final scenes of the series take place in the snow, for Bella and Edward are like figures in a snow globe, frozen in time, gazing only at each other for eternity. How boring!

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